UK Eyes Five Protection Areas for Harbour Porpoises

UK is looking to protect harbour porpoises by setting up five marine conservation areas in its surrounding waters. 

According to a statement on Tuesday by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), an adviser to the UK government on nature conservation, five harbour porpoise Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), proposed and consulted on in 2016, have been approved by the relevant UK Governments.

These sites were submitted to the European Commission (EC) on Monday, January 30, 2017, and are now considered to be candidate SACs (cSAC), pending EC approval, JNCC said.

The submitted cSACs have been identified based on analysis of 18 years of comprehensive data on harbour porpoise distribution. These areas were identified as important, having persistently higher densities of harbour porpoise compared to other areas, and will complement existing conservation measures in place throughout UK waters for whales and dolphins.

A charity dedicated to the protection of whales and dolphins, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), claims that harbour porpoises in the UK need protection due to dangers posed by fishing gear, collisions, impacts from vessels that cause disturbance and other noisy activities.

Commenting on the submission of the areas to the EC, WDC said: “These sites are now considered to be designated for management purposes, and WDC looks forward to taking part in productive discussions towards robust management measures of activities that take place within them, to ensure that those activities are fit for purpose and not impact porpoises.”

Commenting on the announcement by the UK Government that five special areas of conservation for harbour porpoise have been notified to the EC, Alec Taylor, Marine Governance Programme Manager at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said: “The harbour porpoise is one of our most loved UK species, so this is a much needed step in their protection. These sites will not only go a long way to protecting these enigmatic animals from human pressures in the areas they use the most, but will help create a UK marine environment that is rich and healthy, enjoyed by all whilst supporting sustainable livelihoods and multi-sector use.

“However, now is the time for proper management measures on issues such as bycatch and underwater noise and WWF-UK looks forward to working with the UK Government and others to ensure the safety and long-term prosperity of our harbour porpoises.”

Subsea World News Staff

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